We’re counting down the days until kickoff. So, every day, we’ll try to make that time tick by just a little faster by also counting down the top 30 moments of James Franklin’s tenure so far. Up next — with 14 days left — is the No. 14 moment since Franklin took the head-coaching job.
No. 14 moment: Beating Minnesota in overtime in 2016
Penn State’s 2016 upset over Ohio State thrust the Nittany Lions back in the national conversation;. James Franklin lifting the conference trophy was a landmark moment in program history. And the 52-49 thriller against Southern California set the bar for what Penn State can do offensively in 2017.
But the game that got overlooked following Penn State’s incredible nine-game winning streak was the one that started it in the first place — the Nittany Lions’ 29-26 overtime win against Minnesota.
Seven days after a 39-point loss at Michigan, the Nittany Lions’ season was hanging by a thread. Sitting at 2-2 going into Penn State’s Oct. 1 home game, another 7-5 campaign was looking likely, if not desirable.
Penn State needed this one, and the Nittany Lions got it.
After trailing 13-3 at halftime, Penn State rattled off 17 unanswered points. An 80-yard connection from Trace McSorley to Irvin Charles sparked the comeback. That was followed by a Tyler Davis field goal and a 6-yard McSorley run.
Minnesota fired back with 10 straight points, though. With the Gophers leading 23-20, Penn State had less than a minute left to march down the field and give Davis a chance to send it to overtime.
McSorley converted on a 3rd-and-10 from Penn State’s own 25-yard line, finding Chris Godwin for a gain of 20. Then — facing a 3rd-and-3 on Minnesota’s 48 with 20 seconds to go in regulation — McSorley split two defenders and scampered for 26 yards.
Davis nailed a 40-yarder as time expired to tie it up at 23.
After Penn State held Minnesota to a field goal on the initial possession in overtime, Saquon Barkley finished it off on the Nittany Lions’ first play. Barkley — who totaled 38 yards on 19 carries before that handoff — burst through the middle of the Gophers’ defense for a 25-yard score, leaping into the end zone untouched.
It was the cap to Penn State’s biggest win of the season to that point — and one that jump-started the Nittany Lions’ memorable run to prominence.